Common errors in English grammar are as plentiful as teen girls at a K-Pop concert. Actually, maybe even more plentiful.
With schools loosening up on spelling and diction requirements, more people are wandering the content wilderness bereft of the basic knowledge they need to craft impactful content.
Here’s what I mean.
If you’re trying to write compelling content that makes your target audience see you as the Holy Grale (see what I did there?) of information, using incorrect grammar or producing a document filled with misspelled words isn’t going to cut it.
In fact, it’s going to undermine your authority and turn people away from your content.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “No problem, I have spell-check — BAM.”
While I applaud your use of technology to check your content with a fine-toothed comb, spell-check won’t save you from incorrect homophones, misplaced modifiers, or other grammar bugbears.
For that, you’ll need our handy primer, below, and a good set of eyeballs.
If you’re really motivated, you might consider adding eyeballs in the form of an editor or two to make sure you catch all the errors.
If you’re trying to write compelling content that makes your target audience see you as the Holy Grale (see what I did there?) of information, incorrect grammar isn’t going to cut it. Avoid these Top 10 #grammar mistakes 🛑 Click To Tweet
The Top 10 Countdown of Common Errors in English Grammar (Plus Other Commonly Missed Errors Just for Fun)
If you’re guilty of grammar, punctuation, or typographical errors, you’re not alone. Plenty of us (including me!) have made our fair share of mistakes when it comes to writing.
Instead of worrying over the past, let’s all pull up our big-girl panties (or tighty-whities) and learn how to protect our precious content from these sneaky credibility underminers in the future.
If you’re guilty of grammar, punctuation, or typographical errors, you’re not alone. Plenty of us (including me!) have made our fair share of mistakes when it comes to writing. - @JuliaEMcCoy on the top 10 English grammar errors Click To Tweet
1. Horrid Homophones
We might as well start with the most common of all grammar issues — homophones. Topping the charts of confusing homophones are our favorites:
They’re/there/their and Your/You’re
Let’s sort these out logically by dealing with contractions first.
Both “they’re” and “you’re” are contractions because they have an apostrophe inside the word. That little hook-like accent hitches two words together, like the cars of a locomotive train. In this case, those words are:
You are (You’re) and They are (They’re)
Now that that’s sorted, let’s look at the possessives:
Their and Your
Each of these means something that’s in possession of them or you.
That is their website.
Is that your content?
Finally, our little leftover — there — signifies a place.
The best content is over there at Express Writers’ website.
While there are plenty of homophones to stumble over, these two take the prize for the most often misused.
2. Problematic Punctuation: Commas and Quotes
Punctuation is a source of contention among many grammar-minded editors and writers. While some are a matter of style (we’re talking about you, Oxford comma), some rules are simply not meant to be broken.
A misplaced comma can alter the meaning of your sentence, and not always for the better. You’ve probably seen this example on a T-shirt or mug at your local café. It’s an oldie, but it drives home the importance of using commas properly.
Let’s eat Grandma.
Let’s eat, Grandma.
Big, bad wolves aside, adding a comma to this sentence makes it a lot more, well, palatable. Commas are also necessary to separate two independent clauses, like so:
Express Writers produced outstanding content for me, and my website has shot to the top of page rankings.
I centered this sentence on the page not just because it followed our format for this post, but because it outlines each independent clause. An independent clause is one that can stand on its own as a sentence. So, the sentence above could easily be read as two sentences:
Express Writers produced outstanding content for me.
My website has shot to the top of page rankings.
Got a sentence made up of two shorter sentences (independent clauses)? Then you need a comma!
'Let’s eat Grandma.' or 'Let’s eat, Grandma.'? Know how important commas are! Read the top 10 common errors in English grammar Click To Tweet
Many content writers love inserting quotations here, there, and everywhere. But, when you’re using quotes to emphasize a word that’s not part of a spoken sentence, you might be coming across as sarcastic.
Check it out:
Express Writers did a “great job” on the landing page.
Is your gut feeling that we blew that job out of the water or that we simply blew it?
If you think we failed on this order (remember this is just an example, folks, we never fail!) based on the quotation marks, you’d be correct.
Using quotation marks in this way normally conveys sarcasm. Don’t want to come across as sarcastic? Don’t use them this way unless you’re setting a word apart from other words in sentence, like we do in Little Latin Slip-Ups, below.
3. Brand Entity Errors
Content writers often refer to brands in the course of writing content for blogs, white papers, and websites. While many of us see brands as a nice, big group of friendly faces all standing under one company umbrella, a brand is a single entity.
So, no more:
Express Writers is changing their logo to reflect a new vision for the future.
Express Writers is changing its logo to reflect a new vision for the future.
We all like to personalize the companies we work with. But, the fact is that a business is an entity, and an entity is referred to as “it.”
4. Hold Your Horses — WHOA!
Today’s content is often peppered with everyday, casual language that makes it relatable to certain audiences. Casual language, the use of texting acronyms like OMG and LOL, and other common slang terms isn’t a problem if it’s what your target audience is expecting.
However, there’s one common word that is misspelled over and over and over in content across the web. Perhaps, you’ve been guilty of it. Ready?
Not sure how that second spelling started to go viral in content, but it has.
Whoa is pronounced like the word “woe.” If I were to try and pronounce “woah” it would sound like “woe-ah,” something I’m certain never passed the lips of John Wayne or even Quentin Tarantino.
5. Little Latin Slip-Ups
How many times have you seen a piece of content sprinkled with “i.e.” or “e.g.” when a writer wants to elaborate on something?
The problem is, those abbreviations for Latin terms each mean something entirely different.
Understanding where the abbreviations come from might clear up their meaning for you so that you use them correctly in the future.
Here we go:
The Latin phrase “id est” meaning “that is” is shortened to i.e. Use “i.e.” when simplifying a point, NOT when outlining examples. Here’s what I mean:
Express Writers handles thousands of pieces of content in a week (i.e., they can easily handle any level of content work you need).
A good way to check to see if you’ve used i.e. correctly is to substitute the words “that is” for the abbreviation when reading the sentence aloud.
Moving on, the Latin phrase “exempli gratia” means “example given” or “for example.” Using the abbreviation e.g., therefore, is perfect when you have a list of examples to clarify your point. Like this:
Express Writers can write any kind of content your business requires (e.g., blogs, white papers, e-books, and more).
To check for correctness, simply use the words “for example” in place of “e.g.” and see if the sentence makes sense.
'When outlining examples, do you use 'i.e' or 'e.g.'? Know the answer in these top 10 common errors in English grammar Click To Tweet
6. Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda
I have to say, even writing that title made me go, “Hmmm.” It’s no wonder so many people get stuck writing these contractions incorrectly.
To clarify, we’re talking about writing the following:
When we should be writing:
Would have (Would’ve)
Could have (Could’ve)
Should have (Should’ve)
While using the contraction (could’ve rather than could have) is considered formal and, to some, archaic, it helps you see how the sound of the contraction could lead people to believe the “of” form is correct.
But it’s not. So, don’t do it, okay?
7. Mangled Modifiers
Okay, I’m taking creative liberty here. This is really about dangling modifiers, but that just doesn’t have the alliterative ambiance I’m going for with these titles.
Plus, if you’re getting these wrong, you are mangling your content in one of the most embarrassing ways possible.
A dangling (or mangled) modifier happens when a noun follows a descriptive phrase that simply doesn’t apply to it. For example:
After plummeting for weeks, Joe tried to increase his site’s ranking with great content from Express Writers.
Sounds like Joe better have a good parachute strapped on, right? Let’s save Joe by fixing the sentence:
Joe tried to increase his site’s ranking with great content from Express Writers after it had been plummeting for weeks.
Hurray! Joe gets a cushy landing and a high-ranking website. Express Writers and great grammar — a winning combination saves the day!
8. Me and I
These have been the source of many “C” grades in grammar over the years. What sounds good to our ears is actually incorrect. Let me demonstrate:
When you’re done editing that blog post, please deliver it to Julia and I.
Sounds right, doesn’t it? But it’s not. How can you tell? Take Julia out of the sentence and it reads:
When you’re done editing that blog post, please deliver it to I.
It’s wrong because “I” should never be used as the object of a sentence. Instead, you’d use “me.”
When you’re done editing that blog post, please deliver it to Julia and me.
Remember, don’t leave anything to chance. Check it:
When you’re done editing that blog post, please deliver it to me.
BAM! You’ve got it!
9. Who That?
This is one that trips people up all the time, but it’s super easy to correct once you understand the rule.
Use “who” when describing people.
Use “that” when describing objects.
Let’s use some examples.
Julia is a writer that writes content.
If you said that sentence is incorrect, you’re right! It should read:
Julia is a writer who writes content.
Now, if Julia was a computer (and I must admit, I do feel that way at times), your sentence would read:
That is the computer that writes content.
You’re getting really good at this! Let’s move on to the last of our common errors in English grammar.
10. Alotta Problems
I can’t state this firmly enough: There is no such word as “alot.”
Even while typing this, my Word program kept auto-correcting it to “a lot.” So, how does this mistake even happen? It’s a mystery.
By the way, “alot” is different from the word “allot” which means “to set aside, give, or apportion.”
Remember: There is no such word as 'alot.' - @JuliaEMcCoy on the common errors in English grammar Click To Tweet
Get a Grip on Grammar and Watch Your Content Work Harder — and Smarter!
I hope that helping you weed through some of the intricacies and tricky rules of English grammar will encourage you to approach content writing with a new enthusiasm for writing right — no pun intended.
Writing precisely — and correctly — can help boost your credibility as an industry expert and let your audience know they can trust you to deliver accurate information.
As all good content marketers know, trust is a stepping stone to acceptance of your marketing message. So, polish that pen, grab a copy of our primer to keep by your side, and let those creative content ideas flow!